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Property and Environment

Tenants: How to Live in Peace with Your Landlord

A tenant/landlord relationship can sometimes be like that between cats and dogs. It is an owner occupier relationship, which can become vexed if agreements are not respected or honoured, or if a bad behaviour become intolerable.

While the landlord owns the land or property, the tenant is entitled to occupy and use the land subject to payment of rent and good behaviour. The relationship between land and tenant is contractual, thus its terms cannot be altered by either party without the agreement of the other party. The parties are bound by the terms of the agreement.

In this piece, we are going to inform tenants about what they should know and do in order to avoid troubles, especially legal battles with their landlords.

Written Agreement

Every tenant no matter his status or location in Nigeria has the right to an agreement. Agreements, on the other hand, can be oral or written. However, it is advised that agreements between both parties are written because what is written is written and can always be presented as references. The tenant is expected to go through the agreements thoroughly before signing. This will aid both parties to outline their terms and conditions. Tenancy agreements are to contain in details the names of a landlord and his tenant; as parties to the tenancy agreement.

The land or house to be rented out ought to be described in details; showing its location and basic features. The duration of the tenancy, the rent payable and the date at which such rent would become payable should be stated. The modalities for reviewing rent price (increment in price) should be included. Before signing any agreement, a prospective tenant is advised to seek the service of a solicitor to break down any unclear terms in the tenancy agreement.

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Issuance of Receipt of Payment

The receipt of payment is an acknowledgment from a landlord (or his agent) that he has received rent from a tenant. It must contain the name of the landlord and the tenant, the amount paid and the date of such payment. The property for which such payment is made, the duration that such payment will cover and the signature of the receiver must also be on the receipt. It is an actionable offense to refuse to issue a receipt for rent paid and received. It is your right as a tenant to be issued a receipt upon payment of rent. Where the payment is only a part of the whole, it should also be receipted and same stated. Remember a written agreement endorsed by the landlord before a witness that he has received a rent from his tenant will suffice. No matter how familiar, friendly, corporative and caring your landlord is, please always demand for receipts of your paid rents to safeguard your tomorrow.

Peaceful Enjoyment of Property

When a tenant pays his rent and is issued a receipt, it is the landlord granting him the right to peaceful enjoyment of the property. Once this is done, he determines the entrance, usage, safety and can even sue for trespass against any trespasser; strangers, landlord and his agents. The landlord, however, can supervise and maintain the property generally, but with the knowledge of the tenant and within reasonable hours of the day.

Right to a Valid Quit Notice

A tenant cannot be thrown out of his apartment unless there is a strict compliance by his landlord with of relevant Recovery of Premises Law. Recovery of Premises Law provides that a valid “quit notice” of a landlord’s intention to terminate/quit the tenancy of the tenant must be written and served on the tenant. The amount of time given to the tenant, whether weekly, monthly, yearly, depends on his rent. Thus it is advised that a tenant thoroughly read the tenancy agreement before signing as some might even sign away their rights for a ‘quit notice’. Remember, ignorance is not an excuse in law. A valid “quit notice” must contain the name of the landlord, the name of the tenant, the address of the property occupied by the tenant, the date the notice will commence and date it will end.

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Right to a Compulsory (7) Seven Day Notice to Recover Premises

Because the tenant is protected by the Nigerian tenancy law, the landlord cannot just ask the tenant to quit without issuing a Seven Days Notice to Recover. The “Seven (7) day Notice of Owner’s Intention to Recover Premises” is a notice from a landlord’s lawyer notifying a tenant upon whom a “quit notice” had been served and same had expired; that the lawyer will after seven (7) days from the date of the service of the Notice proceed to court to recover the over- held premises on behalf of the landlord.

The above information are important for any tenant who wants to avoid being manipulated or taken advantage of by their landlord. With knowledge of these facts, you can know what the boundaries are for you landlord.

But some tenants are also badly behaved. In order not to trigger your landlord, a tenant is advised to do the following.

– Do not breach the terms of contract.
– Maintain the property, as it is only leased and not permanently transferred to you. Reasonable wear and tear expected
– Pay rent as at when due
– Pay all existing rates and future charges not payable by the landlord by law
– Permit the landlord and his agents to view the condition of the premises and effect repairs in necessary parts of the building during reasonable hours.
– Don’t make any alteration or additions to the premises without written consent of the landlord
– Don’t assign or sublet any part of the property without the written consent of the landlord

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Breaking this rules can affect the peace that should exist between a tenant and a landlord.

By Ojonugwa Felix Ugboja

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